The latest version of the Ford Focus has some big shoes to fill. It has frequently been the best-selling car in the UK since the first version came out in 1998 and the current generation sold 77,800 units last year.
The latest Focus isn’t a radical evolution from the previous model. It’s slightly larger, lower and wider, but it’s practically the same weight. Styling has been given a modern twist to fit in with Ford’s latest interpretation of its Kinetic design and while it’s definitely different, it’s still recognisable as a Focus.
The new model will arrive at dealerships in time for the March plate-change and Ford is expecting it to help push Focus sales to 90,000 this year. This figure will also be bolstered by the manufacturer’s decision to keep selling the current generation Focus with a single Sport trim level alongside the next-generation car. That’s quite a bullish target to hit in what most industry commentators expect to be a tough year, but Nigel Sharp, Ford GB managing director, is confident the automotive retail market will be healthy enough to sustain the growth.
The new Focus is Ford’s first truly global model. It will go on sale in 120 markets across the world in the same format in each one of them. As a result, a huge amount of complexity and choice has been taken out of the model line-up. This in turn should make it less complicated for sales execs to get acquainted with the line-up and make it easier for them to help customers choose the model that’s right for them.
The Focus will be available in four trim levels – Edge, Zetec, Titanium and Titanium X – with a choice of three petrol and four diesel engines.
The Zetec is expected to be the biggest seller with the engine choice split between the 1.6-litre Ecoboost and 2.0-litre 138bhp diesel. However, 70% of the cars being shipped here for the plate-charge are Titanium trim.
Only a higher powered version of the 1.6-litre Ecoboost petrol was available on the preview, but it’s a fantastic engine, providing characteristics close to a torquey diesel, with smooth acceleration and enough performance to keep customers happy. The diesel felt a bit more sluggish, with the car slightly heavier at the front, but it’s still a decent engine with good power delivery. There were only Titanium trim models available, but interior build quality is still high, with a slick new cockpit style dashboard raising the design stakes higher than the more sedate VW Golf.
The Focus is the first Ford model to standardise auto-start-stop technology across a significant part of the range. All vehicles with the 148bhp 1.6-litre Ford Ecoboost petrol engine and the 1.6-litre TDCi diesel engine are equipped with auto-start-stop, with CO2 emissions starting at just 109g/km on the diesel model.
Ford is including an active grille shutter as standard across the range which helps to optimise aerodynamics by using vents to control airflow through the grille to the cooling system and engine compartment. When fully closed, the reduction in drag means that the active grille shutter can reduce CO2 emissions by 2%.
All the engines in the Focus line-up emit less than 140g/km CO2, which is great for corporate customers and retail business alike. All the 1.6 petrol versions, including the 148bhp Ecoboost turbo will cost £110 in Vehicle Excise Duty, as will the 2.0-litre diesel Powershift automatics. The 2.0-litre manual diesels emit 129g/km so are £90 to tax and the new 1.6-litre diesels qualify for just £20 annual tax.
One of the biggest things that Ford is hoping will make the Focus stick out in comparison to its competitors is the amount of driver assistance technology available.
The C-segment hatch can be specified with an abundance of gadgets usually seen on more expensive D-segment models, tapping in to the trend of consumer downsizing.
Key innovations in the new Focus include the low speed safety system – available for the first time in a Ford – active park assist, lane departure warning, lane keeping aid,
traffic sign recognition, auto high beam, driver alert and adaptive cruise control. The driver assistance pack will cost customers £750 (see driver option).
The Focus is consistently benchmarked for class-leading handling in the C-segment and Ford planned to raise that benchmark further with the new model.
There’s been a big change in the steering though, with hydraulic power assistance switched out for an electric system in order for the car to be compatible with all the driver assistance aids.
Some critics feel the change has damaged the car’s dynamic steering, but it really hasn’t. The Focus is certainly still fun to drive and one of the biggest improvements is how much more refined the car’s handling is. Body control is still great, but the new suspension absorbs bumps with ease, catering for customers in the C-sector that are looking for more comfort and refinement.
Ford has managed to strike the difficult balance of providing customers with more of the same, while changing things up enough to keep the car desirable and fresh. Ford’s current and conquest customers won’t be disappointed.
Residual values for the new Focus are an average 6% points higher than the outgoing model at three years/60,000 miles. So it’s improving, but it’s still not the market leader.
Jon Wellsman, sales director at Ford of Britain, said while the company was pleased with the uplift in values, he admitted they were not class leading. Wellsman said: “We would like this car to be best in class.
“We are moving out of short-cycle rental to the extent we have participated and will be increasing the retail and user-chooser mix of this car.”
He said Ford had consulted with the main RV guides extensively over the new mode and had selected specifications and equipment grades that would increase the desirability of the cars on the used market.
The Focus is another fine Ford, one that’s made great strides in terms of comfort and
refinement, is good value for money and has some interesting new tech features. But it definitely feels like Ford is gunning for the Golf, resulting in a very mature car.
The new Focus is a seriously good car and covers more bases. But sadly, one we really care about, the handling, isn’t quite so well taken care of.
The Daily Telegraph
The Focus is back with a bang, with the competition running scared and a driving pleasure that some BMWs can only dream about. Why can’t all family hatchbacks be as good?
Look out for driver assistance option at £750
There are seven option packs in total which fit in with Ford’s new sales strategy of selling what’s on the car, not off it. However, the £750 driver assistance pack which will be sold with 10% of models is the one really worth highlighting.
It features a camera mounted behind the central rear view mirror that watches the road ahead and warns drivers of circular road signs including variation in speed limits. The system can also stop the car when travelling below 10mph, preloading the brakes and engaging if the car thinks it’s going to hit a car or pedestrian. It also monitors driver fatigue, monitoring when the car wanders out of a lane, warning the driver and then automatically guiding the car back into the correct lane if the car continues to drift.